Laws are written on paper, but that doesn't mean they are supposed to be used to line the bottoms of dog cages.

That apparently is what the state Department of Agriculture has done with a tough law - on paper - that was passed in 2008 to ensure humane treatment of dogs by breeders and to end Pennsylvania's status as the East's leading haven for "puppy mills."

A stunning report issued Thursday by the state's Dog Law Advisory Board found that enforcement of the kennel law has been so lax that the Department of Agriculture's Dog Law Enforcement Office cannot even verify that substandard kennels that claim to have shut down actually have done so.

Thousands of dogs, the board reported, continue to suffer in inhumane conditions that prompted enactment of the 2008 law.

The law required large-scale breeders to double cage sizes, eliminate wire cages that injure paws, stop stacking cages, ensure access to the outdoors and provide regular veterinary care. It established standards for ventilation, humidity and cleanliness.

According to the board, many large-scale breeders folded rather than comply, but many have remained in business and have found ways to skirt the law.

"Kennel owners have learned that they may evade the legal kennel requirements with virtual impunity. An examination of inspection reports leads to the conclusion that kennel owners have likely realized that although they lost their battle against enactment of the law, they are usually free to ignore it," the board's report said.

State lawmakers should examine why the law has not been enforced. If it is due to a lack of funding, as regulators claimed in response to the report, legislators should make sure that the office has the money to do is job.